Zhenmin Tao is a project leader at Flanders Make, a strategical research institute dedicated to the manufacturing industry based in Belgium. He is also the new SEABAT project WP3 leader.
What was your original motivation to become a researcher?
My original motivation to become a researcher was to explore and push forward the (interdisciplinary) scientific frontier and, in the meantime, create impact.
What is your (main) research area today?
I believe a researcher is, above all his/her expertise, firstly a member of the society, therefore a researcher should also build insights on how his/her research can be integrated to social-economic processes. Therefore, my research today can be summarized as “sustainability and decarbonization facilitation”. On the engineering side, leveraging state-of-the-art intelligent control techniques, I lead projects that develop novel lubrication systems and control algorithms that lead to high efficiency drivetrains. On the economic side, I lead research that foster the electrification of the transportation sector by reducing the total cost of ownership of battery storage systems and drivetrains. On the social sciences side, I promote research activities that facilitate the active participation of industrial consumers in the electricity market.
What is the main objective of your team in SEABAT?
In general, the objective of the SEABAT team in Flanders Make is to design the complete battery system as a manufacturer and evaluate it thoroughly from the design phase as end user. First, we ensured the practicality of the battery system developed in SEABAT by analyzing and evaluating the potential hybrid system concepts against more than 30 KPIs defined by project industrial partners. Secondly, we exploit and generalize the insights in developing the modular and scalable hybrid battery system architecture by virtually validate the battery system up to 1 MWh. Thirdly, at the size of 300kWh and down to component level, we demonstrate theoretically that a reduced cost can be achieved when comparing to current state of the art battery systems. Last but not least, the outcome of our work shall lay a solid foundation for the work of other SEABAT partners. To name a few, the verification of the theoretical cost reduction and the proposition of a business plan.
What expertise and facilities does your team have to meet those objectives?
Prior to expertise and facilities, my team members are enthusiastic in fostering the electrification transition, in their own manner with their unique expertise. In SEABAT, we have a team of talented researchers in the domains of systems engineering, battery electric and thermal engineering, mechanical and mechatronic engineering.
Flanders Make is a strategic research institute with strong and wide spread industrial connection, hence our SEABAT team build benefits from immediate access to test benches that are capable of accommodating test objects ranging from bearings to a combine-harvester, from battery cells to full electric vehicles. The domain knowledge that we developed in research activities will directly contribute to the design of SEABAT battery systems.
Which aspects of your research at SEABAT do you believe are the most innovative and what unique opportunities offers SEABAT to yourself and/or your organisation?
We believe the most innovative aspect is the modular and hybrid design concept. SEABAT’s battery system concept significantly increases the scalability of the battery pack. By doing so, the battery module manufacturing can be highly standardized, the proportion of high power density modules and high energy density modules of a battery pack can be tailored to the application scenarios, and the annualized total cost of ownership can be reduced thanks to longer lifetimes.
How do you see the future use of the SEABAT-results and the impact of SEABAT-project in our daily lives?
If you are professionals of the energy storage industry, especially the power battery industry, you can expect direct impact from SEABAT in the coming years, because the SEABAT modular design has a long list of advantages and is highly scalable, which means the SEABAT concept can inspire battery system designs in other transportation sectors. For the others, do not feel disappointed, standing on the shoulder of SEABAT, innovations will arise one after another and eventually reach your daily life.